Any fellow students?

Are any of you ladies, like me, studying at university away from home? Ive yet to have a firm diagnosis of whats causing my now chronic pain but in the last year or so, depite my health being on and off and exhausting, ive remained at uni. I find it really isolating and draining at times. Has anyone else had the same or similar experiences? Any tips on how to cope with the symptoms along with uni life and studying?

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  • Hello : ) my situation is a little bit different but perhaps I can offer some help, and if not, at least a reminder that you can do it.

    I work full time, but last year I began my first year of a really fast pace but part time business degree (hons in 3 yrs) whilst continuing with the full time job. As it happened it was the year that I was diagnosed and treated for stage 3. it was so tough so I can definitely sympathise.

    I take pretty strong painkillers so really struggled with energy and focus.

    In the first semester I gave 100% to everything and maintained a very strict study plan in order to keep up. This meant that I was working at my absolute limit all the time...not good and not sustainable. I learned that rest was equally important.

    In the second semester I cut myself some slack and gave myself more time off and what helped even more is that I learned the art of cramming. i figured out that I could only cope with peaks of stress rather than a consistent level.

    Some other things i found helpful - I used an exercise ball instead of an office chair, I'd run a hot bath and read a textbook and my favourite, id record myself reading through my notes and explaining topics. That meant I could take my iPod on walks to ease the pain, listen to it whilst doing other things. Sitting for long periods it hard and painful for me, so that was an absolute winner. I also planned my study time for the morning when I'm most alert.

    My 2nd op unfortunately fell right in the first week of 2nd year, so I had to defer. I'm off just now but will begin again in September. I am pretty proud to say I passed first year with a merit in spite of everything : )

    How are you managing with the social side of Uni? I imagine it might be a bit isolated for you.

    Wow that was a super long message! Got carried away. I hope you find something useful in my ramblings.

    X

  • its hard and getting an operation to get diagnosed when you are at uni is very stressful I imagine. The only way would be to do it over the holidays I guess but once you have a diagnosis it can help with extenuating circumstances forms if you need them.

    As you are in your final year I suppose that you may be putting this off until after this july. Its a difficult decision and there are pros and cons to either way of doing it.

    If you need time off then try and work around your pain and make sure your tutor knows what is going on. Make sure that you get a letter from your GP explaining the situation and that your tutor sees this as well as any other staff.

    Trying to work with the doctor to keep your meds as non drowsey and possible and communicating any drowseyness side effects to the uni staff with a GP letter to back it up in case it effects exams/coursework.

    Other than that its just to remember that this is temporary and that a little hardship at uni can really make you appreciate the opportunity you have so you make the most of it, I am sure you see the people around you who are only there for a laugh. Well because you have to fight that much harder you will appreciate this opportunity more.

    I struggled with real life stuff when I was at uni and ended up with a better degree and appreciation of the subject than many of the people I studied alongside.

    All I can say is keep communication open with the staff, show them you are trying and they will do what they can to support you.

    The student support centre may be able to help:

    cardiff.ac.uk/studentsupport/

    here is the guide arund how your uni helps people with specific medical conditions:

    cardiff.ac.uk/dyslx/disabil...

    Special Examination arrangements are discussed here:

    cardiff.ac.uk/dyslx/exams/i...

    Study skills service: (could help you if you are having trouble due to your condition, to make the most of your remaining year and work around your condition)

    cardiff.ac.uk/dyslx/studysk...

    and here is the counselling department which you may find helpful to work on managin your emotions and stress with both uni and the pain you are experiencing:

    cardiff.ac.uk/counselling/i...

    Hope this has helped x

  • Hi ladies. Thank you both for taking the time to reply with such helpful info.

    Weealex: Its great to hear you did so well in your first year! Well done! It has been tricky. The most difficult thing for me has been trying to have a social life at uni as well as studying. I can manage only one, but not the other. So the focus at the moment, as im in my third year, has been to study as hard as possible to get a good degree. Potentially, I could get a high 2.1, so even just handling the studying side of things can be stressful as I put alot of my pressure on myself anyway (always have!). Your tips regarding studying around the illness and taking the time to relax definitely resonates with me. I find myself becoming alot worse and very tired if I try and study too hard, especially if i get stressed along with it. As I've got worse I have learnt to pace myself. If I need to take a day off, I do. But the days when I can manage study then I make sure I get as much done as I can. Thats somewhat helping with the stress for now, anyway! :) The last thing I want to do is defer a year now when Im so close, so im determined to manage this. I hope youre recovering well and getting better :)

    Crystal_willow: Being at uni has been part of the problem really, yeah. As my doctors pointed out, Im actually registered with a GP here in Cardiff as well as my main GP back home in Pembs. (where I really spend most of my time, as im only uni part time to help me cope). At the moment Im on the Depo injection which seems to be helping a bit with periods, but im still in pain everyday which I feel like theyre are ignoring.Like you say, I kinda need this diagnosis for uni too- they have been emphasising the importance of medical evidence which is only making me really depressed becase i cant give them anything yet. I went to see my doctor about it and left crying because he basically said I can do nothing for you because as far as I know theres nothing physically wron with you, (all scans and blood tests ive ad so far have come back fine!). That wasnt the most helpful appointment!

    Thanks for all your links :) I have on going contact with my personal tutor, who is very understainding of my situation. She has pointed me in all of these directions, like you, and Im in contact with my lecturers to make them aware and try and keep up.

    Im especially keen to see the counselling service because I feel the depression and stress I sometimes feel from whatevers wrong with me is actually exacerbating my symptoms somewhat.

    Despite all this, I recently got engaged to my wonderful fiance and so grateful to have his constant support. He's my star, and I think id be alot more stressed and in pieces if it wasnt for him. I think having loved ones around you, who understand, can be the best medicine sometimes.

    Thanks again guys :) I hope youre both as pain free as possible today and feeling in good spirits.

    xx

  • I was hoping your uni would have made you aware of the services but they don't always so its good that they are doing their jobs : )

    congrats on your engagement!!

    So what are you studying?

    As far as the doctor is conserned - although he cannot say that you definately have endo I don;t see any reason why a GP cannot write a letter stating that you are being investigated due to chronic pain and he is treating you with Depo-Provera so perhaps a letter to say why you are on this treatment would be helpful?

    There may be no proof of what causes the pain but there is evidence for your suffering - the fact that you are currently receiving prescribed treatment shows that you are being investigated for pain and your doctor could write a letter supporting that as it is the pain that is the problem at this stage.

    I know they can be shifty about it but if its worded to show that although you have no firm diagnosis you ARE being treated for chronic pain and why he has prescribed the Depo-Provera... not proof but the uni didnt ask for proof... just evidence :)

    I was dealing with serious and untreated anxiety when I was at uni (as well as undiagnosed endo apparently but my pill masked most of the symptoms).

    I was so unwell but I kept this quote in mind when it ground to the finish "pain is temporary, sucess is forever". Not the most mentally health attitude I agree and if I were to go back I would have scheduled some fun into my routine and relaxation exercises.... but but there are moments at uni where you have to squeeze out just a little more juice and for those moments that quote got me through.

    Good luck and I am sure you will get your 2:1 xx

  • Thanks very much- it's all so exciting!

    I'm studying BA Religious and Theological Studies- fascinating but quite tough work load, especially in my last year.

    Youre quite right about the doctor. In fact, in the end he did write a note explaining that I am finding university difficult because of pain and tiredness and im having ongoing investigations into the pain. The reasons Im concerned is because Ive been told the uni can be very strict about evidence and such. Im mainly worried that this wont be enough as in the long run they have asked for a full medical report to cover ongoing difficulties for the rest of the year. Sometimes, and im sure youve all experienced this, it makes me feel more like a student statistic of marks rather than an individual who is treated with realistic expectations.

    Im starting to believe that the Depo is working now though- my periods have almost gone now, and although my 'periods' are still more painful than the rest of the month, they are significantly better. So im hoping this will be the case for at least the immediate future :)

    Thats a great quote. You're right, there are times when you need to push yourself. In some ways, doing it brings with a feeling of accomplishment which in turn can reduce my stress levels. Thats the main reason why I'm keen to get as much done as I can when I feel well.

    Thanks for your well wishes...I hope so too :) Its great to have the support that I have around me as you guys on here who can also speak from your experiences.

    crystal_willow, how did you find uni life affected any fatigue you had as a whole? Sometimes I feel like just having to general looking-after-myself things can take it out of me, leaving me with little energy to get work done. It's a pain, as it all needs to be done!

    x

  • To be honest I really got very unwell at the end of my degree with stress and anxiety and the doctors I saw had no idea what to do about it.

    I wish I had known about SMART goal setting and I wish had realised that I needed to schedule in fun as well.

    I lived by my diary and I still do.. being realistic about when I will have time to do things... making the most of energetic times as well as "just do something" moments when I had little energy.

    If I had no energy I would "just do something" and then reward myself for that... making skeletal plans for my essays or analysing just one set of results or adding comments to one picture.... if you spend all you trying trying to do everything then it all gets overwhelming so even when I had no energy I would resolve to do something achievable and then give myself a break.

    that way when you get your next batch of energy you will not be starting from scratch and you will be proud of yourself.

    also looking after my health.... wow if only I knew how much more energy I would get if I only learned to do the basics to look after my health. I mean sleeping was hard cause I was working as well although one of the best things I did was I saved enough money over years one and two to quit working for the whole of the final year and it was so worth it.

    I got to focus on my studies in a way that the rich kids can as least for the final year and it made all the difference and I was so proud of myself for saving up enough for me to do that. And I got a 2:1 in the end which I am still very proud of.

    oh yeah SMART goals:

    make goals

    Specific

    Measurable

    Achievable

    Relevant to you

    Time bound

    you are far more likely to achieve them that way

    xx

  • Can definitely relate to the "do something". That's become my mindset to stop me from feeling useless lately. I tell myself that if I have some energy then I can acheive just a little bit then I will feel that I am getting there - even if it may be slowly. Just start reading an article; plan reading for an essay or even sending important emails or something.

    Congrats on your 2:1, certainly something to be proud when battling ill health!

    I love that SMART goals idea! I try to stick to some of these aspects-especially when I feel like the stress might overwhelm me!

    I will stick this on my wall, where I can see it and notice it!! :) xx

  • Hi when I was at uni I had a laparotomy to remove cyst and had 2 months off in my final year. I was advised to just pass any small projects and put all my energy in the main projects which I knew I would do well in. This worked for me butas it was a design degree it may be structured differently. 10 years later I was teaching the course and had students with variousissues. I discussed what difference the letter from my doctor made and found out as long as there is official evidence the uni can upgrade your mark slightly. They can't just take your word but its just an official letter stating that you are affected with pain a bit like getting a sick note. It just has to go in your file officially . As for socialising I would sit in a pub or cinema for a few hours for a mental break from work which was relaxing and I didn't need lots of energy but the break from studying gave me a boost to focous the next day. I used to tell all my students, make sure you give your brain a rest! And I still do this now you could always invite friends over for a DVD girlie night and paint your nails or something nice which won't be exhausting for you.

    Congratulations on the engagement and good luck with the degree. Just do what you can and don't add stress on top as I know I feel worse when I get stressed. X

  • Thanks for your reply :) Good for you for getting through with two months off! Unfortunately the majority of my coursework and exams are equally as important as each other- although coursework is slightly more flexible as the university are flexible with deadlines because of my circumstances.

    In a way the uni have been made aware of my health before. Ive suffered from depression and some anxiety since Ive been at university, and Im still on citalopram now (i dont feel ready to go off them as I suspect my fluctuating health is actually exacerbating the depression!). So, its not that ive been off the radar is such, its more the sudden pressure to give all this evidence, which I dont have, which has got me down.I dont know, perhaps Im stressing over nothing?! Its hard not too when its something youve put alot of effort into.

    My socialising consists of similar things, especially now. I used to be more of a party animal (especially in first year :) ), but now tend to meet freinds for lunch when I have the most energy or perhaps pop over for coffee in the evenings. It certainly reminds you that downtime is important :) Im very lucky that I have such supportive and understanding friends at uni- especially when they still love going out drinking etc which is something I just dont have the energy for anymore.

    Thanks very much, I have my fingers crossed to get through these last few months feeling Ive done the best I can.

    x

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